When Izzy Stradlin dropped out of Guns N' Roses two years go, he felt he had no choice. He was burned out from the craziness of the lifestyle. "The thought of coming off a tour and being found dead in an apartment didn't appeal to me. That's not a healthy way to live," says Stradlin, who has managed to kick his drug and alcohol problems to become a solo star to reckon with.

"I just reached a point in my life where I wanted to do something else. I wasn't sure what I was going to do, but it would be something else from Guns N' Roses," Stradlin says in a recent phone interview from San Diego.

Stradlin, a rhythm guitarist with a bluesy voice, has come back strong with his new band Izzy Stradlin & the Ju Ju Hounds, who have scoured two recent rock radio hits with the raucous, Rolling Stones-like "Shuffle It All" and "Somebody Knockin'" on their new album. But Stradlin's emergence came only after some serious soul-searching - and a reality check in the form of a trip home to Lafayette, Ind., where he and Guns singer Axl Rose grew up.

"I went back to Indiana to chill out," says Stradlin. "Nobody has fax machines back there. I also did a road trip across the states to see places like the Grand Canyon, Key West and New Orleans. I'd drive around and stay here and there as a tourist. But it helped just to get away from Hollywood."

Stradlin has moved on to the Ju Ju Hounds, consisting of Rick Richards (formerly of the Georgia Satellites), bassist Jimmy Ashhurst (formerly of Broken Homes) and drummer-percussionist Charlie Quintana, who's played with the Cruzados and Bob Dylan.

"We're a groove band,' he says. "In that way, we're like the Stones. The groove and vibe are always the most important things."

Stradlin remembers falling in love with the Stones from listening to neighbors' records back in Indiana. "I lived in a government housing place and these neighbors were super cool. They had kids and a huge record collection with the Stones, Bob Dylan, and Pink Floyd. So I listened to all that '60s stuff. Then in the late '70s, I got into all the punk records and really liked the Ramones."

Stradlin is now at a point where other artists want to get into him. Aerosmith singer Steve Tyler wanted to write songs with him, though they couldn't work out a mutually convenient time. Pianists Ian McLagan and Nicky Hopkins, known for their work with the Stones, volunteered to help out on the new Ju Ju Hounds album.

"It's great to meet some of these guys I've been fans of for so many years," says Stradlin. "And it's great to be back on stage and playing clubs. I had been living in a stadium world with GNR, which is like an altered state of reality. In stadiums, it's easy to forget you're playing for real people."